Full Stack Developer: Myth or Legend

I’ve been known to use the phrase “full stack developer” sincerely, even somewhat recently, but it’s a label that makes me feel ill-at-ease. I’ve seen it bandied around a lot lately and it’s got me wondering whether I really believe that such a person truly exists. I’ve heard people I respect argue persuasively that such a person exists and I’ve… Read more →

Safety Nets for Professionals

I once encountered a small web development team that kept all its source code (Classic ASP) on a shared network drive. No version control. No organized backup. When someone was going to work on a file, he announced it verbally. If someone made a mistake that had to be rolled back, the sysadmin would grab the latest version of the… Read more →

Ending the Hiatus

Five years is a shamefully long blogging hiatus. It’s been long enough. I’ve set myself the goal of writing 12 posts this summer. In years past, I thought of derekhat.com as my venue for less technical writing and ardentdev.com as the place I would post content intended for a more technical audience; but I don’t write enough to justify two… Read more →

Improve Your Wireless Signal

The hard core geeks know that to optimize your wireless networking experience you want to select a channel that is unused by other nearby wireless devices. If you run Windows 7 (or Vista), use the following command at the Command Prompt to see the channels and signal strength of nearby networks: netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid The channel numbers will… Read more →

The Chip in Your Customer’s Pocket

Chances are good that you already have a credit card with a microchip in it.  Transactions using the chip require you to enter a PIN rather than signing a receipt.  It steals from you the tactile pleasure of scrawling your chicken scratch on a scrap of paper, but otherwise the new system is intended to be less susceptible to fraud.… Read more →

If You’re Going to Do Online Video…

…please do not start your video with “I haven’t made a video in a while…  I just figured I’d get on camera and talk to you a little bit…  Not much been goin’ on here lately…” You should produce online video that informs, entertains, or baffles the mind. Please. Viewers will move on quickly if a video does not respect… Read more →

Run Multiple Desktop Shortcuts At Once

Several times a day I find myself launching a set of desktop shortcuts at the same time:   I had keyboard shortcuts set up but it was still a multi-step process for opening up my main communication tools (HootSuite, my webradius.com email account, and my hatchard.net email account). Here’s a simple way to create a master shortcut to launch everything:… Read more →

Solution to Dell Freezing After Resume from Sleep

I have been thoroughly satisfied with my Dell Latitude E6400 except for one large annoyance:  it regularly hangs when resuming from sleep mode.  It isn’t completely frozen when this happens – some applications will respond to mouse clicks but my web browser, IM, and Skype windows become unresponsive.  Eventually things come back to normal but the wait is embarrassing if… Read more →

Being the Parking Overflow

Today was a special day because I got to watch my girls perform what they learned at ballet camp all week.  The little ballet school was overrun with proud parents and grandparents so parking was a bit tight.  A lot of us ended up parking at the credit union next door. Of course there is a sign in that parking… Read more →

The 59 Sound

It seems like I can’t get enough of The Gaslight Anthem since a friend recommended their album "The ’59 Sound."  I love listening to the title track, though once you absorb the lyrics it starts to tug on the ol’ heartstrings. There’s a clue to the meaning of the phrase "59 sound" at 3:07 in the video, though it’s not… Read more →

Have You Saved a Cat?

Your brand (whether personal, professional, product, or corporate) embodies a story.  A good story sells.  A great brand story helps people connect with a brand. I recently finished reading "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder.  The book is for screenwriters.  Let’s clear up one quick point:  I do not aspire to screenwriting.  The book was recommended by Kathy Sierra at… Read more →

Will Internet Fad-to-Fade Hype Cycles Implode?

Following the vein of some of my other #junechallenge posts, I’m doing some thinking about Internet hype cycles and the impact of Internet on culture. As a prelude to that, listen to Nora Young’s interview with Bill Wasik on Viral Culture.  One thing that piqued my interest was a comment about spending time working on things that don’t have to… Read more →

Post-it Stop Motion Awesomeness

Here is a fantastic piece of video art using Post-it notes to do pixel-style stop motion. Brilliant work.  Great job, Bang-yao Liu (Savannah College of Art and Design).   And lest you think this is just some bored kid wasting time, watch the "Making of" video to see just how involved it was:   Read more →

It is OK to Hate Your Customers

Obviously it is OK to hate your customers because so many companies clearly do, and they do so actively.  Want proof?  Test the limits of their "friendly customer service."  Be a little bit annoying or high maintenance or disagreeable. You might want to be cautious and experiment with a company that sells a product or service you can live without. … Read more →

Pay Attention: The World is Changing

A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already existed when they were born, and hence has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native The world is changing and you need to pay attention to an important trend:  digital natives are not very good at paying attention.  Neither are those… Read more →

Writing for the Internet Generation

You won’t read most of what I write in this post.  You will most likely skim it and at best read half of the content (on average). In May 2008, usability guru Jakob Nielson published his analysis of web usage data borrowed from a research study.  I recommend you read it after this article.  Here’s the big stunning quote: Obviously,… Read more →

When Does Quality Matter?

"A job worth doing is worth doing well" This past week I received a book of coupons in the mail from local businesses.  I believe in supporting local business, especially locally owned and owner-operated businesses, so I flipped through it.  One coupon caught my eye.  It was for a business I had not heard of before and it looked like… Read more →

Best Ice Cream Stand in Riverview / Moncton

This week I had the pleasure of telling my story as an entrepreneur to a class at Atlantic Baptist University here in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.  The instructor and her husband are friends who also happen to own my favourite summertime ice cream destination (Ava’s Ice Cream). Afterward we were chatting about how to use the Internet in hyperlocal cases… Read more →

The Recurring Vendor No-Love-Fest

Have you ever dialed *611 (or some equivalent number) on your mobile phone to reach your mobile provider? Have you then been asked to enter your phone number? Don’t they already know that? Last week I was in Las Vegas for the seriously awesome MIX 2009 conference. Since I am from Canada, I went to the self-service site for my… Read more →

The Usability of No Results

Have you heard the expression "URLs are dead"? Web users don’t remember URLs anymore. We search for what we need. This is a boon for Google, Microsoft (Live), Yahoo, et al because they can sell advertising space beside the search results. Unfortunately the state of search on individual sites isn’t quite as evolved as the highly tuned general-purpose search engines.… Read more →

The Netbook Resolution Conundrum

I just had my first conversation about accommodating netbook screen resolutions for a RIA (Rich Internet Application) prototype. Netbooks are those little laptops showing up in every electronics store on the planet (e.g., Lenovo IdeaPad, Asus Eee PC, Acer Aspire One, Dell Mini,  HP Mini). According to The Channel Wire, the "netbook market grew by more than 160 percent quarter-on-quarter… Read more →

Google Flu Trends

This makes total sense once you hear about it:  Google has determined that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. So Google can use search term data to predict flu outbreaks. That’s cool and yet another creepy indicator of the scary amount of access Google has to trends in human behaviour. http://www.google.org/flutrends/ The closest state to me is… Read more →

Toronto Indie Band in Microsoft Promo Video

On one level this video makes me roll my eyes.  On another level I find it mildly entertaining.  The technology they showcase is from the real world and the usage is somewhat believable.  Except the store clerk having a Zune.  That never happens. Anyway, the video features Canadian indie band Magneta Lane doing a cover of "Girl From Mars."  Awesome. … Read more →

Houston, We Have a Virus

Nasa has confirmed that laptops carried to the ISS in July were infected with a virus known as Gammima.AG.  The worm was first detected on Earth in August 2007 and lurks on infected machines waiting to steal login names for popular online games. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7583805.stm I’ve done many stupid things in life but I’ve never taken a virus into space.  🙂… Read more →

In a World Without Real Food, I’d Rather Not Eat

When a futurist or science fiction writer envisions a world without real food, our descendants are eating some form of engineered meal replacement.  Like these Tony’s Turboz from Kelloggs: These things are awful. Seriously. And I enjoy Bran Flakes. Tony’s Turboz meal replacement is the first and only food designed with kids in mind to provide the balanced nutrients of… Read more →

Improve Outlook 2007 IMAP Performance

It’s no secret that I’ve had recurring issues using IMAP with Outlook 2007. I would be ready to abandon Outlook entirely but I’ve fallen madly in love with Xobni. Every few months I try Thunderbird or Outlook Express or Windows Mail. Today I even tried something called Barca. They are all fine but after my most recent fling with Thunderbird,… Read more →

5 Strikes for Priceline.com

I am a big fan of Priceline.com for booking hotel rooms and rental cars at discounted prices.  (I can’t use it for flights – with Priceline you can only book flights originating in the US and my flights normally depart from Canada).  I love the concept.  I love the service.  You should try it: But recently I tried to talk… Read more →

Search Can Be Sooo Much Better

Brad Goldberg manages the Live Search team at Microsoft.  Here are a few things he said in a recent interview with Robert Scoble: Search has the opportunity to get a lot better. No kidding!  Search is still a sloppy area.  There’s so much headroom for innovation.  I’m ready for somebody to really ratchet things up a level.  Tweaking relevancy is… Read more →

Gen X and Its Discomfort with Corporate Life

Tammy Erickson has a very interesting article suggesting ten reasons why Generation Xers are uncomfortable with corporate life. Many of you X’ers are not thrilled with corporate life. You tend not to trust institutions in general and deeply resent the Boomers’ confident assumptions that you will be motivated by the same things that Boomers have long cared about. Many of… Read more →

Pennies at a Time

You know a news story is good when it conjures up not just one but two great memories (Superman III and Office Space). A California man has been indicted for an inventive scheme that allegedly siphoned $50,000 from online brokerage houses E-trade and Schwab.com in six months — a few pennies at a time. Michael Largent, of Plumas Lake, California,… Read more →

The Cognitive Heat Sink

Clay Shirky says, "Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat." Mass media masks the cognitive surplus afforded us by the industrial revolution. Read more →

Must-Have Apps for a New Laptop

I just did a clean install of my new XPS M1530 laptop.  Here is my current list of must-have software that I install on Day One.  Have other suggestions?  Leave a comment. Windows Vista Business Drivers (of course) – it would be nice if Dell provided a simple "install all" option on the driver disc Mozilla Firefox (my web browser… Read more →

My New XPS M1530 Laptop

My 13" MacBook has been on the fritz lately and the warranty is almost up so I ordered a new laptop in preparation for sending the MacBook in for service.  From what I’ve heard, service from Apple can be like a black hole and I need my laptop for work.  Unfortunately my 3.5 year old tablet PC is not up… Read more →

Entrepreneurship Quiz

http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/entrepreneurshipquiz.asp This quiz is a promotional tool for the book "The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By."  Sounds like it could be an interesting book, although if all it does is answer these kinds of trivia questions, I probably won’t read it… Post a comment here if you take the quiz and… Read more →

Startup Lessons from the Music Industry

Seth Godin has a good post on things you can learn from music business: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/music-lessons.html He makes some great points, but two in particular really resonate with my thinking about technology startups: 1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s… Read more →

There’s a 20% Chance We’re Living in a Computer Simulation

I probably should have published this on a Friday afternoon, but here you go anyway: Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully… Read more →

Power in Paper (Literally)

Wow, this is incredibly cool: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-08/rpi-bbs080907.php Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new energy storage device that easily could be mistaken for a simple sheet of black paper. The nanoengineered battery is lightweight, ultra thin, completely flexible, and geared toward meeting the trickiest design and energy requirements of tomorrow’s gadgets, implantable medical equipment, and transportation vehicles. … Rensselaer… Read more →

Outsource the Non-Core and Do More Learning

A nice post by Harold on industrial structures versus knowledge economy.  He sums up nicely the way I feel about being self-employed: Many of my clients in traditional and hierarchical organisations are so busy with meetings, travel, commuting and other non-essential tasks that they don’t have time for their real job, which is probably some form of problem-solving. I’m in… Read more →

A Great Speech

If you haven’t already, you must read or listen to the commencement speech by Bill Gates at Harvard this year. Regardless of what you think of his software empire, his humanitarian work is admirable and his vision is compelling. A few key passages: But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret. I left Harvard with… Read more →

OS X Tip for Keyboard Users

I find there are two classes of Mac users: those who like to use the keyboard as much as possible (like me) and those who scoff at us, insisting that it’s more Mac-esque to just use the mouse. A big annoyance of mine since I’ve started using OS X more regularly has been the inability to tab to buttons in… Read more →

Oldest Man in Canada

According to Wikipedia, the oldest man in Canada is my great grandfather, Ernest MacPherson, born January 11, 1899. For the longest time everyone thought Gramp was born in 1900 but in the past ten years or so, somebody discovered it was actually 1899. Gramp was a farmer for many years. At 70 years of age, he could throw a bail… Read more →

Today’s Internet is Disrupting Our Culture

Earlier this month, the WSJ published what has been widely criticized in the blogosphere as an inaccurate history of blogging (e.g., Scoble’s response to it).  Newspapers, magazines, and television programs regularly print/broadcast retractions and corrections.  And sometimes we get a full-blown scandal like “Rathergate.”  Meanwhile there are extremely talented and disciplined journalists, commentators, and entertainers actively producing high quality content… Read more →

Awesome Work Environment

An awesome work environment can make even tedious work feel enjoyable.  I’m currently sitting on the deck at my coworking office working on my MacBook, a couple of burgers are grilling on the BBQ, and a bottle of Steaz soda is waiting for me.  When Mike Mullen shows up after lunch, we’ll sit out here and work on finishing up a… Read more →

Google Earth Finds Secret Sub

According to the Strategic Security Blog, a commercial satellite took a photo last year of a classified Chinese submarine that has shown up in Google Earth.  You can see it in the satellite view of Google Maps or click the image below for full-size. It’s amazing how the Internet has opened up the world.  Even just a few years ago, something… Read more →

But I Don’t Like Spam…

I just don’t understand why this even ends up in my spam folder: There’s not even a remote chance that message is a false positive.  It should not be in the list of messages that I need to review.  Email as we currently know it is doomed.  The spammers have us overrun.  Expect to see strong identity / authenticated email… Read more →

The Pod in iPod

Seth Godin writes that Apple has spent (wasted?) millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements because it lacks a clear naming architecture for its products. He also writes: Then they went back to the Newton strategy, with a twist: Apple iPod. The thing is, the “i” in Mac modified something we knew what it was (a Mac). But what’s… Read more →

7-Eleven Gets It

In conjunction with the upcoming Simpsons Movie, 7-Eleven has remodeled a number of its stores to look like Kwik-E-Marts (the convenience store in The Simpsons). The remodeled locations are listed at http://www.7-eleven.com/kem.asp. To further blur reality and fiction, the team also collaborated with private-label manufacturers to create products from the show that will go on sale exclusively in all 6,400… Read more →

Subliminal Advertising in Animal Heaven

Here’s a great video showing that even advertisers themselves are susceptible to unrecognized influence (assuming it’s genuine as Derren Brown is an illusionist and his television performances often involve trickery).  Be sure to watch right to the end: (linkage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyQjr1YL0zg, by way of Terry O’Reilly’s blog Age of Persuasion) Read more →

For example, that is

The other day I received an article back from an editor with “e.g.” replaced with “for example” and “i.e.” replaced with “that is”.  I find it sad that we can no longer assume people know what those abbreviations mean (even if they are abbreviations of Latin words).  Our society is acronym and abbreviation crazy.  I mean, for crying out loud, we… Read more →

Tales From Philadelphia

We wrapped up the last city on the Windows Longhorn Server 2008 Roadshow yesterday in Philadelphia.  It was my first time in Philly.  What a great city.  I need to go back for a vacation.  There are a lot of things I just didn’t have time to do like go see the Liberty Bell or visit some of the historic… Read more →

Shift Comradery

I had to make an emergency just-before-closing-time run to the grocery store tonight for milk (I have three small kids: no milk == bad morning).  As I was leaving, the night shift workers were filing in to stock shelves, clean the floors, etc.  I noticed that they were surprisingly upbeat for 11pm.  They were smiling and chatting.  I worked at… Read more →

Make Wireless Work on Vista on MacBook

Here’s a solution that might help if you are having trouble connecting to wireless networks with Vista on a MacBook using Bootcamp.  MacBook owners regularly report problems with their wireless network adapter under Vista.  On my 13″ black MacBook (about 2 months old), the wifi works great after a clean Vista install until I install the Apple Bootcamp 1.2 drivers… Read more →

While In New York

While in Manhattan this week I have two destinations beyond the roadshow: 1. The Chip Shop – the English fish and chips spot made famous for deep-frying Twinkies.  I’m not a Twinkie fan so I’m going for the deep-fried Reese peanut butter cups.  I’ll probably go all out and try the deep-fried Twix as well. I’ve been itching to check… Read more →

Driving on Vegetable Oil is a Felony

This story is so outrageous that you wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t government-related… a retired couple in Illinois who simply want to drive their vegetable oil-fueled car, but now face huge fines and possible felony charges for doing so… …they fuel it up using leftover restaurant cooking oil. However, earlier this year, two officials knocked on their door from… Read more →

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Well, I’ve been blog tagged with this “5 things you didn’t know about me” thing.  Here are my five: I loved Transformers growing up.  I watched the cartoon, collected the comics, and had all kinds of the toys.  I’m actually a bit excited about the upcoming live action movie.  I wonder if my old comics will be worth anything now… Read more →

Canada Is Going to Need High Tech Workers

Sarah Lysecki (ITBusiness.ca) is reporting that Canada is facing a dramatic shortage of computer science and computer engineering graduates.  The Software Human Resource Council says the IT sector in Canada needs 35,000 new hires each year but only 7000 are coming out of the school system.  And the need is expected to grow to nearly 90,000 per year over the… Read more →

The Wild West: Terms of Service on the Web

You’ve heard it before, but it’s still a problem.  Terms of Service (ToS) and End User License Agreements (EULA) on the Web are out of control.  Click through licenses do get upheld in court and that’s a huge problem because they are not user friendly (closer to soul destroying then anything else I suppose). Legally a user is consenting to… Read more →

Information From Falling Water

Bitfall makes images and words from falling water drops. This is just so cool. If you run the text from the Bitfall site through Babelfish you find that the project is a metaphor for the continuous flood of information that we are exposed to. The visual information is only temporarily understandable as a picture before disintegrating into itself. (And “krach”… Read more →